How Does a Breathalyzer Work?
Paying attention to how many alcoholic beverages you consume while out is important, especially when you are thinking of driving back home. You often feel fine, but drinking can fog your judgment, making it dangerous or even fatal to set out like that. So, enter personal breathalyzers. How does a breathalyzer work and what are the best brands? Let’s find out.
What is a Personal Breathalyzer?
Home or personal breathalyzers are small devices that work in the same way as those used by law enforcement personnel. These can be great tools for checking the alcohol level in the blood all by yourself and avoiding accidents.
The device works by measuring the chemical composition of the breath and giving an estimate of the blood alcohol content (BAC). The acceptable amount for driving is 0.8% BAC. Unfortunately, that usually means having only a drink or two of wine or beer at most.
Keep in mind that driving under the influence is never okay! When possible, try to have one drink maximum or no drink at all, especially if you have to drive back home.
Even if you are feeling fine, it is always best to get an accurate measure of your sobriety. Your thinking is often clouded after drinking, so a breathalyzer will give you an unbiased, precise estimate of how good you are to go home all by yourself.
Understanding How a Breathalyzer Works
The breathalyzers have an anode and a cathode. So, one end, the cathode, is positively charged, while the other is negatively charged. When you breathe into a breathalyzer, the ethanol will react with the water and air on the negatively-charged end and convert into acetic acid. On the cathode, the oxygen reacts to form water. So, since there is a reaction at both ends, this current is directly proportional to the alcohol level in your breath.
Although the accuracy is not as great as a blood test, you can still rely on these devices for an estimate.
The breathalyzers use either of the three technologies. Let's discuss each briefly.
1. Semiconductor Oxide Sensor
These are new ethanol-based sensors used to measure BAC. The semiconductor oxide sensors are more affordable, as they have a tin-oxide material inside. However, their performance is only good enough for the personal level of assessment.
2. Fuel Cell Sensor
These are highly precise and provide an accurate measure of BAC.
So, you can say they are slightly more advanced than the semiconductors. Their accuracy is so good that law enforcement uses them in over 30 U.S. states on the road.
Another good thing about these is that they are less likely to give you a false positive, like in fasting individuals, those following a diet plan, or those who have diabetes.
3. Infrared Spectrometer
Infrared spectrometers are usually found in police stations and are larger in size. The spectrometer measures the level of ethanol and determines the individual's BAC.
Top 5 Personal Breathalyzers
The most important thing to consider for buying a breathalyzer is accuracy. There are other features like size, ease of use, price and quality.
So, here we have researched and put together five of the industry’s best breathalyzers you can get for personal use off the shelves.
1. BACtrack Trace Breathalyzer
Price: $99.99 USD
First up, we have the BACtrack Trace Breathalyzer. We looked up everything from the price, quality, accuracy and performance for this one, and it came up to the mark on all aspects.
It functions easily. It just needs two AAA-sized batteries, and has a one-button function, so there is nothing fancy or techy about it. Anyone can use it.
It is also approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is listed on the FDA.
Its BAC results are almost as good as any professional model. It only takes a few seconds to give you a reading.
- Good value for your money.
- Easy to use.
- Highly accurate.
- It needs to be calibrated once or twice a year.
2. JASTEK Breathalyzer
Price: $37.72 USD
Next, we have the JASTEK Breathalyzer. This one is also portable, fast and easy to use. However, it has additional features, like setting alarm values and storing records. This way, you can analyze your drinking habits over time.
The results are highly accurate. It takes about twenty seconds for the device to start, and just a few seconds after blowing onto it you can get the results.
There’s a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen where it shows the results. The device runs on batteries.
- It has six units of measurement.
- Saves power.
- It takes longer than others to start.
- It is not approved for testing.
3. Seven-first Portable Breathalyzer
Price: $19.99 USD
Next on our list is this breathalyzer by Seven-first. Highly accurate, it is almost as good as those held by officers on patrol. This is a great portable option for personal use. The device comes with an LCD screen for easy reading.
Also, it gives a slight beeping sound if your BAC is over the limit. It is exact and comes with semiconductor sensors. The device runs on batteries. However, it has a power-saving feature, so your batteries will last. The display also shows warning signs and a low-power display, so you can find and replace the batteries well in time.
- Easy to use.
- Fast and accurate.
- Some users find it unreliable.
4. BACtrack S80 Breathalyzer
Price: $129.99 USD
You can try the BACtrack S80 Breathalyzer if you have a flexible budget. This one will give you accurate results. The reviews are excellent, and it is no wonder because the quality is great. It is also police-grade level and quite a reliable device you can count on in your time of need.
The warm-up time is fast and takes about 15 seconds to give you the results. BACtrack S80 is FDA approved. Using it is easy, and it has a clear, easy-to-read display screen. So, you can take it with you to check yourself, friends, or family.
- Long-lasting battery life.
- Needs calibration.
5. BACtrack Mobile
Price: $99.99 USD
Another remarkable one by the BACtrack series is the BACtrack Mobile. The device is relatively small and portable and connects easily to your phone.
Apart from just telling you the BAC level, you can also check how long it will take to get your BAC level back to zero. So, it is not a one-time thing. You can look into the results over time and assess how many drinks are okay for you and your consumption pattern.
You can recharge this device, so there is no hassle of batteries. Also, it does not have a display screen, but that is alright because you will have your phone screen to check for the results and analysis anyway.
- Pocket-sized portable device.
- Provides accurate results.
- Easy Bluetooth connectivity.
- Needs to connect with a smartphone to work.
- Doesn’t consider factors, like diabetes and other special diets.
- No display screen.
The drawback of relying on a breathalyzer is that sometimes the device fails to give you the right results. For instance, people with high acetone levels in their breath may have it detected as ethanol.
So, it is not a good measure for those who have diabetes or follow specific diet plans, like keto and intermittent fasting.
If you are up for partying all night, you better call an Uber and avoid driving altogether. Even if you feel fine after having a few drinks, never trust your judgment!
These home breathalyzers are amazing tools to get your hands on. We have listed the top five most accurate devices that will give you a realistic estimate of your BAC.
Get a home breathalyzer today and check your BAC level before you get pulled over! Remember, drinking under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense and can get you arrested.